Happy New Year. I hope as you start January that you have made some specific goals towards increasing your meaning, purpose and skill in life, both at work and personally. I know for me that a good paycheck alone is not motivating enough to keep me interested in my work, although it does help. There must be room to innovate, to connect with other people, and to have the resources to get the job done well. Fortunately for me, that is true.
But what I know about physicians is that is not often the case. In fact, if anything you may feel over the past few years that instead of growing into more autonomy and rewards – as you rightly should in any career – you are getting things taken away.
ACMS has spent a lot of time over the past year developing resources to help medical professionals become more resilient. And I'm very proud that this past fall, we launched our Physician Vitality Program to that end.
But, I also recognize that just helping you become more resilient or mindful isn't enough. In fact, although those are coping mechanisms that any good doctor already practices, what really needs to happen is systematic change.
What do I mean by that?
I often revert to the Biblical story of Israel slaving away in Egypt under the whip of the Pharaohs. Eventually as the Israelites demanded their freedom, Pharaoh says, "Stop complaining, get back to work and by the way, you need to make more bricks, but you'll have to start collecting your own straw."
Now that sounds to me a whole lot like: "Well, we're just going to have to learn to do more with less." Does that sound familiar? Now I'm not talking about avoiding efficiency or fending off the use of technology. And of course, in some seasons of recession or contraction, doing more with less may be a matter of survival. But when that season grows into a year and resources are constantly eroded and the front-line worker takes the brunt of doing more with less, at some point you have to say ENOUGH!
I'm not an artist but I'm imagining a cartoon that has a Pharoah telling an Israelite slave, "We're launching some resilience classes, but you'll still need to make more bricks."
No, what you need are the tools and knowledge to help you change the system that you work in, whether at a practice, department, employer or even industry level. I don't want you to achieve just "wellness" in your life; I want you to have a sense of vitality, that you are an important contribution to the health of our community, not just a cog in some poorly oiled machine.
So, that is one of the things ACMS be focusing on this year and if you are interested, let us know by subscribing to our Pearls of Great Value video podcast. In the meantime, if your life has degraded because of work, please do not ignore the symptoms of burnout. Check out resources in Physicians Vitality Center and talk with somebody soon.